• Sun. May 26th, 2024

AI Express: Air India Express seeks final NCLT nod for AIX merger


Jan 1, 2024
AI Express: Air India Express seeks final NCLT nod for AIX merger


NEW DELHI: The Tata Group is on track to consolidate its four airlines in the New Year. Air India Express has filed the “second motion” for final hearing stage in NCLT for merging AIX Connect (erstwhile AirAsia India) into it. The group expects the nod by March when the two airlines will operate on a single air operator certificate or licence.
The timing of the other big merger — Vistara into Air India — will depend on the latter “reaching an appropriate level,” AI MD & CEO Campbell Wilson had told TOI last September.While there’s no formal word on that merger’s exact timing, people in the know expect that too in 2024.
AIX will focus more on thinner markets and tier II & III cities while AI will — apart from medium to ultra long haul — be on routes with a larger share of premium traffic. It will also provide the feed to AI hubs in Delhi and Mumbai to fill up the latter’s growing number of wide bodies flying across the world.
AIX CEO Aloke Singh said: “We have 62 aircraft as of now (the combined fleet of the two LCCs). In the next 12 months we will induct 50 new Boeing 737 MAX. After phasing out some planes, AIX will have about 98 aircraft in its fleet by next December.” Tatas’s record order for 470 aircraft placed last February includes 190 B737 MAX for its LCC.
“While new domestic and international sectors will be added, we will first focus on consolidating and deepening our network. For instance when we started flying to Surat, we did so from Delhi. Then quickly we had direct flights from there to Bengaluru, Kolkata, Sharjah and Dubai. Ditto with Ayodhya. After Delhi, we announced Bengaluru and Kolkata flights to the holy city,” Singh said.
“AI Group passengers will benefit from cross feeds providing seamless connectivity. AI has a strong international network from Delhi, Mumbai and other places. We will provide the feed to these hubs from places like Bhubaneshwar, Patna, Ranchi, Surat and Bagdogra (replicating the hub and spoke model). The baggage allowance will be the same that passengers get on AI international when they are on our connecting (to and from AI) flights,” Singh said.
AIX, like Akasa, is impacted by a slowdown in global supply chain issues. The B737 MAX planes it is getting — originally meant for a Chinese career which didn’t take delivery of the same — with first two rows of seats being business class seats in 2×2 configuration. Instead of choosing to delay inducting planes, AIX like Akasa is taking their delivery and will change seating to all-economy subsequently.
“We are looking at all destinations within the flying range of our planes that is 5.5 to 6 hours that includes the Gulf, Middle East, south and southeast Asia and the CIS. There is a priority list we will go by,” Singh said.
Preparing to be the first desi LCC that may offer some challenge to undisputed market leader IndiGo — which currently flies 6 of every 10 domestic flyers, — AIX is focussing on comfort too to woo passengers. The emergence of LCCs this Millennium has seen two types of Indian carriers — comfortable (many of which went bust) or profitable. “We will offer hot meals and in-seat charges on our new fleet,” says Singh.


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